Liberty Hill defeats Burnet in defensive battle

Defensive lineman Will Smith (#66) and Dylan Liesman (#88) help the Liberty Hill defense make a goal line stand against Burnet quarterback Derek Kiser (gray uniform, #7). The Panthers’ defense held the Dawgs to 32 yards rushing. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Defensive lineman Will Smith (#66) and Dylan Liesman (#88) help the Liberty Hill defense make a goal line stand against Burnet quarterback Derek Kiser (gray uniform, #7). The Panthers’ defense held the Dawgs to 32 yards rushing. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Junior linebacker Jason Reeves intercepted the ball with 38 seconds left in the game to seal the Fightin’ Panthers’ 14-7 win over rival Burnet on Friday.

The Burnet Bulldogs came into the game averaging 36.4 points per game on offense, but the Liberty Hill defense shut them down all night and held the Bulldogs scoreless until the fourth quarter.

Junior tailback Hunter Lindsay put the Panthers on the scoreboard in the first quarter with a 34-yard touchdown on second down. The extra point by Lucas Rizzotto put Liberty Hill up 7-0 with 3:19 remaining.

Both the Panthers’ defense and Bulldogs’ defense were stellar for the rest of the first half. The Bulldogs got close to scoring when they got into Panther territory, but missed a 39-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining in the second quarter.

The score at halftime was 7-0 Liberty Hill. The Panthers rushed for 139 yards in the first half. Lindsay was the leading rusher for Liberty Hill with 53 yards and a touchdown.

Burnet wide receiver Cody Jones led the Bulldogs’ offense with four catches for 52 yards receiving in the first half.

The Panthers scored their second touchdown with 8:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Head Coach Jerry Vance decided to go for it on fourth and goal from the one-yard line. Senior fullback Nick Barrios punched it in for a tough one-yard touchdown run and Rizzotto’s extra point put the Panthers up 14-0.

The Panthers surprised everyone by kicking an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. Liberty Hill recovered the onside and drove down to the Bulldogs’ 29-yard line, but was stopped short on fourth down.

Burnet quarterback Derek Kiser finally got his offense going with 4 minutes remaining in the game. Kiser connected with his wide receiver Jones for a 63-yard pass down to the Panthers’ 9-yard line. Kiser then hit wide receiver Blayne Parisher for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 4:15 remaining. The extra point cut the Panthers’ lead to 14-7. The drive took only 30 seconds and started on the Bulldogs’ 28-yard line.

The Liberty Hill defense was called upon yet again to make a stop after the Panthers’ offense was unable to convert on a fourth and one play in their own territory.

Kiser started the drive on his own 31-yard line and completed three passes in a row to get Burnet down to their own 10-yard line with 55 seconds remaining in the game. The longest pass came on second down when Kiser hit Parisher on a 30-yard pass.

Liberty Hill linebacker Reeves picked off Kiser on fourth and five to secure the Panthers’ victory. Liberty Hill remains undefeated in District 8-3A.

Coach Vance was all smiles after the victory and celebrated with his granddaughter and football team on the field after the game.

“The secondary came through for us again,” said Coach Vance. “Coach (Jimmy) Duncan and Coach (Anthony) Escobar and those guys and Coach (Carlos) Garza have done such a wonderful job coaching the secondary. And Coach (Joel) Gotcher on the line putting pressure on the quarterback—this defensive staff has done a wonderful job all year. They’ve matured some kids and they’ve gotten bigger and better.”

Liberty Hill returns to action against Lampasas at home on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.